Monday, June 25, 2012

you're never too old to learn something new

                                                Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)

last night i watched a documentary on the woodmans whose daughter francesca jumped off a new york building at 21. they had to identify the body through her clothes. her parents fanatical about doing art (as i am myself). her father, "if she had done something else, i wouldn't have been so interested in her." and during her mental crisis, she thought of dropping photography and raising horses. her father, "you don't know how to do anything else." and this morning it struck me, at twenty-one she could have learned to do anything.

supposedly, new activities build new brain cells, no matter my age. well, here's hoping, cause after eight years of using my left had to manipulate the computer, i've developed 'trigger-finger', the main joint of my index finger catches, pops, and it can be quite painful, or impossible to unbend. though i'm right-handed by nature, i observed many artists left-handed, there's a whole literature on this. so, i figured i'd become ambidexterous and use the opposite with a track-ball. the chickens have come home to roost.

i've switched to the other side, and it's true in life as in politics, my whole manner and perspective changed. i'm trying to learn the art of the tablet, drawing and pecking at it. i keep hitting the wrong screen commands as my pen wavers and shakes. and my tricky right shoulder already's starting to show signs of inflammation. as the next resort, i've ordered an external trackpad where i can use my finger. all this by way of introduction. 

THE BIG QUESTION: do i give up my artistic quest? this certainly changes the rules of the game. as friends told the singer rambling jack elliot  after he had a stroke and couldn't manage tricky stuff on the guitar, 'hey, nobody ever loved you for your fingers.' and he returned to the road. the tool doesn't really matter, if the spirit finds a way. yet, this does change my pace and manner of working. i hope i can adapt. if my hand recovers, i'll play my ukelele. 

seriously, everytime i've thought of being a performer, my body goes wrong. i think like francesca's parents mine expected me to be on the great stage of the world, doing monumental gestures. my mother never really got over my living a very private life. as jung said, 'children often try to fulfill their parent's failed ambitions.' francesca did a great job, enough to become famous for her work now, and hit a wall when adult realities arrived. she might as well be alive, running a stud farm, and enjoying her late fame. 

moving my little command table over has already had unexpected consequences. i'm relieved to have more space to maneuver around the fire-finder. i'm now focused when sitting on a more important part of the landscape for finding fires. and this switch in view makes everything a bit new. true, i'm not happy people find my photographs more interesting than my drawings. of course, i understand in the latter the appeal limited to fewer people, while the world and its vanishing inhabitants desire evidence of their existence and reality. we're all trying to hold on to our identity in the midst of a mass society. it ain't easy. 

you're invited to browse through the 500 galleries and 25,000 photos at to see if you can find me somewhere.